News & ToursJune 1, 2006

Why isn't it called Rainriver?

SUNRIVER, ORE.—I have a love-hate relationship with playing golf tournaments at Oregon’s Sunriver Resort. I love the beautiful view of snow-covered Mount Bachelor you can see off to the west. I just hate the fact I never actually get to see it because of all the rain that falls here.

Seriously, would somebody please tell me where the sun is in Sunriver?

Yes, the weather was pleasant enough during the two practice rounds and turned out OK for the first round of the 109th NCAA Men’s Championship. But when players teeing off in the morning on Day 2 were greeted with cloudy skies and drizzle, and players in the afternoon had to “weather” a drenching downpour in the early afternoon that stopped play for a half hour, once again I had to question the wisdom of playing a national championship in an area where the climate can greatly affect the tournament. (Forecasts call for more rain Friday—enough to where the NCAA has moved up tee times a half hour, with the first groups in the third round teeing off at 7 a.m. PDT—and isolated T-storms Saturday.)

It’s not like we weren’t aware this could happen. All you have to do is turn the clock back a year and see how horrible conditions were at the NCAA Women’s Championship held at Sunriver’s Meadows Course. Three of the four days of competition were marred with continuous sleet and rain and wind, while the one “good” day still saw temperatures peak in the mid-50s.

The thing of it is, it could be worse. It actually snowed here within the last two weeks, causing the greens to turn into the slow, bumpy surfaces the players have faced this week. Combined with the fact they didn’t grow much rough (in Sunriver’s defense, it is a resort course and growing rough for a national championship might not be conducive to the two- and three-figure green fees they get), the course set-up lacks the toughness you look for in a major golf tournament. Not surprisingly, the leaderboard is bunched up with teams that weren’t necessarily the favorites entering the tournament (click here for full results).

I’ll repeat the line then that I used in the game story from that tournament.

Note to the NCAA: When you’re holding a tournament and there is, in fact, a snow-covered mountain nearby, chances are you're in for a bad-weather week.

According to the University of Utah's Department of Meterology, the average number of days with rain each year at the nearest measuring station in Pendleton, Ore., is only 98. This compares to 151 in Portland. Maybe the NCAA is just snake-bit, having also faced weather issues in the four of the last five men’s championships.

Or maybe it needs to do a better job of picking sites for its most important golf tournaments of the year. Of course you can’t plan around bad weather, and bad weather can hit any place you hold a tournament. It’s just that when you’ve got empirical data that suggests there could be problems, you might want to think twice about making the trip to a particular dicey area.

Next year, the men’s event goes to Golden Horseshoe GC in Williamsburg, Va., a place where humidity can become an issue and thunderstorms can pop up as quickly as gas prices. Same with the women’s championship, being held at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla., a magnet for lightning and thunder. I’ve packed my rain gear already.

Meanwhile, for those who want to throw stones at this golf writer who can stay in a warm cushy media center (or a dank, cramped cart barn as the case might be), here is my rebuttal. I don’t mind carrying an umbrella while on the course. I think the players do, however. It’s not fair that the one tournament that everybody remembers each year be hampered and detailed by poor weather.

Even worse, if the weather breaks certain ways, it affects only one wave of the field, giving the other an unfair advantage. Wake Forest senior Kyle Reifers, who shot a 65 in the first round to take a one shot lead over Oklahoma State’s Pablo Martin and USC’s Taylor Wood, had to deal with the drenching this afternoon. To his credit he hung on with a two-under 70 today to stay in the lead by three shots.

"It got pretty ugly out there at times this afternoon," Reifers said after the round. "It was a survival test for a while."

His Wake Forest teammates weren't as luck though as the school that was out front after the first round shot a one-over 289 and has fallen into a tie for second with Arizona State, three shots back of 36-hole leader Washington.

Rub of the green you say? Sure it is, but that doesn’t justify taking events to places that are likely to face questionable conditions.

Don’t get me wrong, Sunriver Resort is a facility that’s second to none with its amenities and service. On a chamber of commerce day, with the emerald green pines in the foreground and Mount Bachelor as the backdrop, you likely think you’re in a tiny corner of heaven.

It’s just too bad that Sunriver’s Chamber of Commerce doesn’t have a great working relationship with Mother Nature of late.

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